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Courage Awards: What You Missed

Wendy Block: If you missed Valley Democrats United's most spectacular Badge of Courage luncheon yet, you didn't learn how one person - including you -- can revolutionize progressive communication.
Eric Bauman, Brad Parker, Paul Koretz,  Dick Price, Sharon Kyle and Margie Murray

Eric Bauman, Brad Parker, Paul Koretz, Dick Price, Sharon Kyle and Margie Murray

If you missed Valley Democrats United's most spectacular Badge of Courage luncheon yet, you didn't learn how one person - including you -- can revolutionize progressive communication. Our honorees not only create remarkable work, they reach millions with it, and help bring tangible change. Widespread political pessimism on the left doesn't stop them.

Spirit of Generosity
The 2010 Badge of Courage winners -- brilliant political documentarian Robert Greenwald and inspirational citizen journalists Sharon Kyle and Dick Price -- demonstrate the talent, passion and tenaciousness it takes to get progressive messages out to an extensive audience these days.

They are also happy to share strategy -- concrete recommendations for effective activism are listed below. But no newsletter can convey the generosity of spirit - what the heck, magic-- that all at the luncheon experienced, awardees and attendees alike. Audience members left not only knowing how influential every one of us can be, but also armed with the right tools. The awardees seemed a bit surprised and gratified at the depth of our appreciation and encouragement.

Illuminating Real World Crises
Greenwald has applied his award-winning professional film and TV production/direction abilities to illuminate real world crises. Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (2006) and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005) are two examples.

Lately you've probably seen and heard his guest appearances over much of the media. As we continue to occupy Afghanistan, program hosts are airing scenes from his Rethink Afghanistan (2009) . One memorable clip sweeps viewers into the war, as we watch bomb-dazed Afghan toddlers and their parents wander around the wreckage that was their town only hours earlier. They want us out. Soldiers and intelligence experts agree.

Greenwald told us that prior to seeing Rethink Afghanistan, people "tarred and feathered" him. Afterwards they said, "I see what you mean."

Greenwald and colleagues have designed ingenious ways to spread their message. You've probably viewed his docs at house parties or meetings or on your DVD player, thanks to his expansive online Brave New Films and Brave New Foundation distribution systems. You'll always find new videos, information updates and activist opportunities at the sites.

Kyle and Price would have laughed three years ago at the notion that people throughout the world would get their regular political fix by clicking on (LAP) , their daily Ezine. Back then they were scrambling to publish a small online political newsletter.

A Little Periodical
Their adventure in citizen journalism began shortly after they met through an internet dating site. This first online experiment succeeded so well it led to their marriage.

They edited a local Democratic club's e newsletter together and enjoyed it. When their concerns expanded beyond the club's, they developed their publication into - their words - a little neighborhood periodical. By then, Kyle and Price both worked full-time producing other magazines and newsletters, and Kyle attended law school.

World Wide Readership
Close to despair in 2008, they launched LAP during the political campaign, modeling it on the advocacy journalism of The Nation. They had to actively seek out other contributors. Once they connected with VDU newsletter editor Margie Murray and began reprinting our articles, their visibility rose. It didn't take long for reporters and other writers to get in line.

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Now people throughout the world follow - the site has achieved more than two million page views. Recently it added issues and events of social and cultural importance for progressives, to its political coverage.

LAP is prominent in the LA Media Reform Group, which co-hosts a yearly Media Seminar, attended by progressives from all over California. This year's theme was "how alternative media like the Progressive can help preserve democracy, as mainstream media suffers economic decline, is increasingly centralized and...polarized," says Price. Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog keynoted.

How You Can Succeed
Here are six smart, practical activities recommended by Greenwald, Kyle and Price.

  • Electeds don't represent you because you don't put sufficient pressure on them. Do something every day, like contacting your representatives and weighing in on their work and issue positions. Your opinion affects them because so few constituents bother. According to our honorees, participating at this grass-roots level helps change the world.
  • Get the facts on an issue, learn them cold, and use them to educate the uninformed or misinformed. Visit LAP, BraveNewFilms, and Brave New Foundation , (which also produce compelling, fact-checked videos and frequently update written pieces).
  • Don't trust the mainstream media to give you the information you need to make informed decisions or to take appropriate action. Become a responsible, media savvy activist yourself -- contribute your voice; become your own distributor. It's more effective to reach others on a peer to peer basis, which the internet facilitates.
  • Stick to your fact-based principles and do what you know is right, even when it seems everyone around you has nothing to offer but tar and feathers.
  • Progressives must get to know and advocate for each others' issues. It's up to us to help each other. Also, groups get more attention.
  • Fight to maintain net neutrality and prevent more media conglomerations.

Our Badge of Courage winners offered even more insights. If you attended the luncheon, you're finding them useful now.

Wendy Block

Every VDU gathering is exciting and challenging, no matter what the issue and/or guest. Our club is a full participation democracy. We welcome honest, thoughtful dissent. Our goal is spirited discussion, not bullying.

Wendy Block

Reposted from the Valley Dems United newsletter, Margie Murray, Editor.